TOKYO — Japan’s amphibious troop unit modeled after the U.S. Marines began an exercise with the Maritime Self-Defense Force on Tuesday to improve their tactical ability to land on enemy-held shores, among other tasks.The exercise, to continue through May 24 in the southwest of Japan, is the first of its kind since the launch of the Ground Self-Defense Force’s Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade in late March, according to the Defense Ministry. The unit’s main mission is to defend Japan’s remote islands amid China’s maritime assertiveness.
“We plan to strengthen the Self-Defense Forces’ abilities to carry out amphibious operations by conducting drills between the GSDF and the MSDF,” Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said at a press conference.
About 450 members of the GSDF’s amphibious brigade and other units will take part in the exercise. Amphibious assault vehicles, MSDF helicopter carrier Hyuga and transport ship Shimokita will also be involved, according to the GSDF.
The amphibious fighting force started off with about 2,100 members. It is stationed at the GSDF Camp Ainoura in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture.
Japan has been increasingly concerned with China’s expanding military activities at sea and in the air that challenge the sovereignty of the Japanese-controlled Senkaku islets in the East China Sea. China calls the uninhabited islets Diaoyu.